The top-ranked Juneau-Douglas High School football team had a few distractions this week as it prepared to play the Dimond Lynx in first round of the state playoffs Saturday night at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
The top Crimson Bears wide receiver-defensive back, senior C.J. Keys, was suspended one game for unspecified disciplinary reasons;
Junior lineman Jake Ritter narrowly escaped serious injury during a one-car rollover of his pick-up truck on Monday, though he was able to play;
And the Crimson Bears were forced to overfly Juneau on their way home from their regular season-ending win over Chugiak, spending half a day in Ketchikan before getting home last week.
Distractions? No problem.
Junior running back Brian Felix ran for 308 yards and five touchdowns to lead the Crimson Bears to a 44-14 victory over Dimond Saturday, sending the Crimson Bears to the state semifinals for just the second time in their history.
After the game, Juneau offensive coordinator Rich Sjoroos pulled Felix aside and asked, "So when are you going to have a breakout game?"
"I'm trying, Coach, I'm trying," Felix answered.
Juneau will play Lathrop at 6 p.m. on Friday at Anchorage Football Stadium. Lathrop beat North Pole 52-48 on Friday night. In other state playoff games this weekend, Colony upset Palmer 12-7 on Friday and East Anchorage blitzed Chugiak 56-36 on Saturday. Colony and East will play on Saturday in the other semifinal game. The state championship game is Oct. 18 at Anchorage Football Stadium.
The Crimson Bears (7-2 overall) set the tone for the game when Felix ran 72 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the game. He started to run around the right side of the line, but made a sharp cut off-tackle as blocking backs Ryan West and Toni Talamai both took Dimond defenders out of the play.
"We practiced running off-tackle a lot," Felix said. "Our linemen made the right call (on blocking assignments)."
Felix fumbled on his next touch, which allowed Dimond (4-5 overall) to continue a drive that had just fizzled and tie the score four plays later with a 1-yard touchdown run by Danny Moss.
But he atoned for the fumble in a big way.
"I just told my teammates, 'I'm sorry,' and that I'd do my best next time," Felix said.
Felix had 165 yards rushing and scored two more touchdowns, on a 7-yard run and a 2-yard run, before the first quarter was over. He scored his fourth touchdown early in the second quarter, on a 9-yard run, and had 209 yards by halftime, and he had an interception on defense. Felix added a 67-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, then sat out the rest of the game.
"Everything just fell into place after that," Felix said of the fumble. "We just didn't get down on ourselves."
"Brian Felix is probably the best running back in the league this year," Dimond coach Duncan Shackelford said. "He has a mental toughness; he runs to win. It's a rare quality in a running back. One guy is not going to bring him down."
While Felix was the brightest star of the game, Juneau's special teams also made a strong showing. The Crimson Bears tried squib kicks to keep the ball away from Dimond returner-running back Darrell Pilcher, and the Lynx had trouble picking up the ball. Dimond fumbled the ball four times on Juneau kickoffs, with the Crimson Bears recovering two straight times in the first quarter.
"I was just kicking it away from Pilcher," said Juneau kicker Richard Isett, who recovered one of the fumbles. "The coaches told me to kick it on the ground and try to get it to about the 30 so he couldn't return it. It ended up working out well for us."
When Dimond beat Juneau 28-27 earlier this season, the Crimson Bears fumbled early in the game and Pilcher returned it for a touchdown. That put the Juneau players back on their heels, so they said they were especially happy to grab the early lead this time.
"That helped in a really big way," junior defensive back Josh Lehauli said. "We were still thinking about Keys, and with that first run our thinking changed to this is our time, our game. We're very happy."
"We just didn't pull the ball down," Shackelford said of the fumbles. "When Juneau's clicking, they're tough to beat. They could be in the state championship game if they keep their heads together."
The Crimson Bears weren't seeking revenge for just the 28-27 loss earlier this year. The older Juneau players remembered the last time the Crimson Bears hosted a state playoff game, in 2001, and Dimond beat Juneau 31-0.
"We stepped it up for this game," said West, who changed numbers so he could be an eligible receiver and wound up running for 64 yards on offense. "Our offense was awesome. We had a lot of unity among the guys. We had a lot of focus, and 4,000 people around the field. I'm a senior and this was my last home game, so it's very awesome."
"For us, we were a different team," said Isett, who kicked a 32-yard field goal late in the second quarter. "We showed we're not one person with our team. Our guys really stood together."
With the game in hand in the fourth quarter, Juneau went to several of its younger players. Freshman quarterback Chris Hinkley threw his first touchdown pass on his first varsity passing attempt, completing a 40-yard pass to Jon Andrew Malacas that made the score 44-7. Dimond's Luke Ayer scored the final touchdown on a 2-yard run.
The public address announcer probably summed up Saturday night's game best late in the fourth quarter.
The Juneau-Douglas High School football team had just scored on Hinkley's pass to Malacas and the PA announcer made the following comment after a blast from the Brandon Pilot Memorial Cannon: "That was the last you'll hear the cannon tonight. They are out of ammunition."
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.
CRIMSON BEARS 44, LYNX 14
Saturday's state playoff game from
Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park, Juneau
DIMOND 7 0 0 7 - 14
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 21 10 0 13 - 44
Juneau-Douglas - Felix 72 run (Isett kick), 11:47.
Dimond - Moss 1 run (Ayer kick), 7:16.
Juneau-Douglas - Felix 7 run (kick failed), 3:07.
Juneau-Douglas - Felix 2 run (Felix run), 1:41.
Juneau-Douglas - Felix 9 run (Isett kick), 11:15.
Juneau-Douglas - FG, Isett 32, 0:29.
Juneau-Douglas - Felix 67 run (kick blocked), 10:47.
Juneau-Douglas - Malacas 40 pass from Hinkley (Isett kick), 9:45.
Dimond - Ayer 2 run (Ayer kick), 7:03.
First downs 14 11
Rushes-yards 46-240 52-356
Passing yards 40 57
Return yards 14 37
Comp-att-int 3-8-1 3-12-1
Sacked-yards lost 5-26 3-16
Punts-ave 4-33.5 4-45.8
Fumbles-lost 7-4 4-2
Penalties-yards 8-62 10-70
RUSHING - Dimond: Pilcher 18-132, Dworsky 6-51, Parker 1-39, Ward 5-30, Ayer 5-12, Moss 2-2, Bittner 9-(-40). Juneau-Douglas: Felix 29-308, R. West 8-64, Kohan 2-3, Wright 3-3, Talamai 4-3, Winters 1-2, Hinkley 1-(-10), M. Shilling 4-(-17).
PASSING - Dimond: Bittner 3-7-1 - 19, Pilcher 1-1-0 - 21. Juneau-Douglas: M. Shilling 0-5-0 - 0, Hinkley 3-7-1 - 57.
RECEIVING - Dimond: Tomco 2-30, Ward 1-10. Juneau-Douglas: Malacas 1-40, Fagerstrom 2-17.
MISSED FIELD GOALS - Dimond: Ayer, 37 (wide left). Juneau-Douglas: None.